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Event offers full day of environmental education

By Katie Demeria

Anyone wishing to help keep the environment healthy and learn more about local flora and fauna will have the perfect opportunity this weekend in a 24-hour period.

Friends of Sky Meadows and the Virginia Master Nauturalists, Shenandoah Chapter, are hosting a BioBlitz from noon Saturday until noon Sunday at Sky Meadows Park.

This is the first year the organizations have hosted such an event. According to organizer John Harris, a park manager asked if they could adopt a field and improve its habitat.

The plot of land they are working on is 75 acres, according to Harris. So far, 60 volunteers with various backgrounds have signed up.

During the BioBlitz, the volunteers will be split into five teams that will occupy five different habitats. They will then identify and document the types of plants and animals they find there.

"The goal is to see how many different species of each organism we can find," Harris said. "So we don't need to know how many salamanders we found, we want to know what species this is."

Once that is done, Harris said, the two organizations will sit down and compile the information to determine what should not be there, such as invasive species.

Hopefully, according to Harris, they will have a better understanding of what is going on in the area and what needs to be done in terms of removing those invasive species.

Not everyone involved has to camp out, Harris said. People are welcome to come during the times in which they are available. The point of the camp out aspect is to document the nocturnal animals that may not be visible during the day.

Some participants will be doing owl calls, Harris said, to attract owls to the area, then using flashlights to identify what kind they are.

Interested participants of whatever background are welcome to sign up, he added. While the event is designed to understand as much about the land as possible, it is also meant to educate its participants.

Children are also encouraged to join. During the same time, the park is hosting another event for parents to take children camping for the first time. Harris said they have invited those participants to join them during the identification process so the children learn about their local environment.

"If they don't know anything about it, how are they going to cherish and protect it when they're our age?" Harris asked.

Many of those who have already signed up come from various parts of the commonwealth, he added. Some come from the Tidewater area, others from Arlington or Fairfax.

"It's also a social event for getting like-minded people together," Harris said.

To sign up for the BioBlitz, contact Harris at 703-431-2232 or johnharris@hla-llc.com. There is a $5 registration fee. Dinner on Saturday and breakfast Sunday are provided, but each guest is responsible for bringing his own camping gear.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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